November 3, 2022

Election night is Tuesday.

But as we’ve seen in recent times, the term “election night” can be a bit misleading. It suggests that when the night is over, the election is over. We know that is not the case.

Think back to the infamous 2000 presidential election when it took more than a month before we knew for certain that George W. Bush had defeated Al Gore. And, of course, it was only two years ago that it took several days after Election Day before the votes were tabulated and we knew that Joe Biden had beaten Donald Trump.

Now we brace for another Election Day. In fact, we should probably think of it as “election week” or “election month.” With several races predicted to be quite close, it might take well after Tuesday to determine the winners in places such as Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, just to name a few.

Marc Burstein, who is overseeing ABC News’ election coverage, told Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein, “No one’s going on vacation on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday.”

This year, it’s more critical than ever that news organizations have no missteps when it comes to reporting on the election results. The seeds of doubt in our elections have already been planted by Trump, his supporters and many (particularly on the right) who, without any proof, believe the only way they can lose is if they get cheated. This election is full of candidates who wrongly believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and are sure to call foul if they lose next week. The Washington Post recently reported that 291 Republican candidates nationwide in this election have denied the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Because of how votes are tabulated in some states, depending on early voting and such, it’s quite possible that one candidate might go from far ahead to way behind (or vice versa) over the course of a day or two.

Earlier this year, MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki told me, “The bottom line is that the average voter tuning in to find out who won an election in a lot of states is going to get understandably confused watching these wild swings that can take place. And trying to understand how it can take days for the votes to come in and trying to make sense why three days after the election has taken place, there’s still a hundred thousands votes from X county yet to come out. I make it a priority to really try to understand on my own exactly what the nuances are in every state and every county.”

Education is the key. The Associated Press has been running explainers on how the election works, including stories such as why we might not know the results right away in certain areas and why the AP declares the winner of elections.

The AP’s Christina A. Cassidy writes, “Not knowing the winner on election night says nothing about the fairness of an election or the accuracy of results.”

But because we won’t know some of the winners right away, conspiracy theorists have time to stir up doubt. This is where the media’s role is crucial. ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir smartly told Klein, “We know from recent history, the early picture isn’t always where we land when the final votes are tallied and the narrative that fills that void, that window of time, can be dangerous if it’s not driven by the facts, and extremely careful reporting.”

That will be an absolute must on Election Day … or election week … or however long it takes.

Strong comments

NBA player Kyrie Irving in a game earlier this week. (AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving — the guy who used to think the world was flat and missed half his team’s games last season because he refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19 — is in the middle of controversy again. Although this time, it’s much more dangerous. Irving tweeted out a link to movie named “Hebrews To Negroes: Wake Up Black America” which has anti-semitic tropes. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted, “The social media posts from @KyrieIrving are troubling. The book and film he promotes trade in deeply #antisemitic themes including those promoted by dangerous sects of the Black Hebrew Israelites movement. Irving should clarify now.”

But when given the chance to clarify, Irving only held his ground, saying, “not going to stand down on anything I believe in.”

As New York Times sports columnist Kurt Streeter wrote so well: “Has Irving expressed any remorse or doubt for any of his posts? No, none. Instead, he doubled down, sticking to what has now become the script for public cowards, casting himself as a victim of reporters and anyone else who dares to ask about his support of hatred. ‘Why are you dehumanizing me?’ he said after Saturday’s game, claiming he did nothing wrong and denying any responsibility.”

The NBA put out a statement that called hate speech “unacceptable.” And the players’ union, of which Irving is a vice president, put out its own antisemitism-has-no-place statement that didn’t even included Irving’s name.

The strongest condemnations, it seems, are coming from NBA analysts, who are also former players. TNT’s excellent “Inside the NBA” studio show with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal all came out strong against Irving.

Barkley called Irving an “idiot” and said he should be suspended, adding, “I think the NBA made a mistake. We have suspended people and fined people who have made homophobic slurs, and that was the right thing to do.”

O’Neal said, “… it hurts me sometimes when we have to sit up here to talk about stuff that divides the game. Now we got to answer for what this idiot has done.”

What has been notable, as of Wednesday, is the lack of pushback from NBA players — something that was not lost on another TNT analyst and former player, Reggie Miller.

“The players have dropped the ball on this case when it’s been one of their own. It’s been crickets,” Miller added. “And it’s disappointing, because this league has been built on the shoulders of the players being advocates. Right is right and wrong is wrong. And if you’re gonna call out owners, and rightfully so, then you’ve got to call out players as well. You can’t go silent in terms of this for Kyrie Irving.”

Good to see these NBA analysts, who still carry powerful voices in the sports, speaking out against such hate and hypocrisy.

But now a late update: After initially standing firm when he received pushback and questions about his choice, Irving did release a statement Wednesday night.

In the statement, which was put out along with his team, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Anti-Defamation League, Irving said, “I oppose all forms of hatred and oppression and stand strong with communities that are marginalized and impacted every day. I am aware of the negative impact of my post towards the Jewish community and I take responsibility. I do not believe everything said in the documentary was true or reflects my morals and principles. I am a human being learning from all walks of life and I intend to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. So from my family and I, we meant no harm to any one group, race or religion of people, and wish to only be a beacon of truth and light.”

The statement also said that the Nets and Irving will each donate $500,000 toward “causes and organizations that work to eradicate hate and intolerance in our communities.” 

And this, too …

USA Today sports columnist Mike Freeman writes: “Black athletes and my community’s blind spot when it comes to antisemitism.”

In the column, Freeman writes, “One of the things I found is that if I’m honest, if all Black people are honest with ourselves, our community has a terrible blind spot when it comes to Jews. It is shameful, it is inexcusable, and it has been there for decades. It has been difficult to root out, persistent and thorny, because inevitably that is what hate does. It sticks to the insides, clingy and rotten, evasive and generational.”

Freeman adds, “Blacks aren’t more antisemitic than any other group. But what I can tell you is there is a significant strain of antisemitism among Black Americans. This is the truth. It is ugly and sad, and everyone in my community needs to start calling it out much more than we do.”

A conflict of interest

From 2018, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, left, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (AP Photo/Rebecca Gibian, File)

My Poynter colleague Kelly McBride, who also is the public editor for NPR, has a new column out about NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg: “Nina Totenberg is the exception, not the rule, and NPR leaders should say so.” It centers on Totenberg’s longtime friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which Totenberg writes about in her recent memoir “Dinners with Ruth.”

This is not a new topic. McBride has written about this before, as have I. I’ve always thought it was inappropriate for Totenberg to have such a tight friendship with someone she covered. Even if the friendship was disclosed — Totenberg never hid it and it was not a secret among those inside the Beltway — it still gave the appearance of a major conflict of interest.

In McBride’s latest piece, she talked to NPR leadership, which defended Totenberg’s friendship with Ginsberg. But it’s not lost on some NPR listeners that at a time when the Supreme Court appears to become even more political in its rulings, here’s a book in which one of the most famous Supreme Court reporters of all time talks about being pals with one of the Court’s most famous justices — while both were on the job.

Totenberg has earned the reputation of being an outstanding reporter and she has had a distinguished career. But it feels like a blindspot when she told McBride, through an NPR spokesperson, “I believe I have answered just about every question about my friendship with RBG in my book. I have always been transparent about that friendship, repeatedly reminding listeners and audiences that we had been friends a very long time. I have covered the courts in one way or another for most of my professional life and have been lucky enough to know and count as friends many judges and justices — both conservative and liberal. From the day I became a reporter, I understood that getting to know people is an essential part of the job. I stand by the quality of my decades of legal coverage as the best proof of my fairness.”

But as McBride writes, “Totenberg has a lot to offer NPR audiences; why not acknowledge that more directly? I believe she deserves to be in a category all her own. Change her job title to legal commentator, bring her historic personal experiences into the storytelling, and create transparency markers that convey the significance of her history. In short, send signals that inform the audience that Totenberg’s insights draw on her personal experiences, similar to that of a news columnist like Ezra Klein at The New York Times or NBC Sports’ Tony Dungy, both of whom explore the news, but do so from a distinctive position or point of view.”

Media tidbits

Hot type

The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan with an in-depth profile of the Oscar-winning actress in “Who Is Jennifer Lawrence Now?”

Awesome interactive graphics and interesting reading. The Washington Post’s Aaron Steckelberg and Lindsey Bever with “Why daylight saving time is worse for your body than standard time.”

More resources for journalists

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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